Maori Totem Pole With Mountain In Distance

Author: Baylee White Blog

New Zealand is a cultural melting pot, however Maori culture, values and way of life are ingrained in to the day-to-day lives of many New Zealanders. Learning about and experiencing the Maori culture is an integral part of one’s visit to our country.

Who Are Maori?

Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand who arrived in the country over 1000 years ago. About 14% of New Zealand’s population are Maori and their culture, history, language and traditions are a key part of our society.

Maori explorers ventured across the Pacific from their homeland of Hawaiki and used currents and stars to navigate their way to New Zealand. Europeans discovered New Zealand after the Maori in 1642.

About Maori Culture:

1. The Haka

The Haka is a Maori war dance that was traditionally performed on the battlefield, along with time when groups came together in peace. The war dance is only performed by males and includes violent foot-stamping, rhythmic body movements and chanting. The Haka is also performed by New Zealand’s national rugby team, the All Blacks prior to a game. It is a touching nod to our country’s heritage and stands out on the world stage in the rugby arena.

2. The Marae

A Marae is a meeting ground that belongs to a certain tribe or Whanau (family). A Marae is a sacred meeting ground and features a main carved meeting house, also known as a Wharenui, an open space, dining hall and cooking area, toilet and shower block. The Wharenui is often the main meeting place within the Marae and features intricate carvings that are significant to that tribe.

3. Maori Tattoos 

Tattoos are culturally significant to Maori and often represent their tribal history and link back to their ancestors. Culturally significant tattoos are often applied to the nose, cheek, and lower jaws and designs are usually spiritual and carefully chosen.

Where Can You Experience Maori Culture?

Rotorua is at the heart of Maori cultural experiences in New Zealand, with many experiences, activities and attractions that focus on teaching others about our country’s history. Many culturally significant and spiritual sites are also located in or near Rotorua (such as Lake Tarawera). Take a historical tour of a Maori village, witness cultural performances and visit geothermal wonders!

You can also learn more about Maori culture at many museums around the country! Visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum or Te Papa Museum in Wellington and read about our history.

Many sites and landmarks around the country also hold significance to the Maori people. The Arataki Cultural Walking app is a great tool that can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play that lets you know about nearby landmarks based on your geographical location.